Why do we need the early Christian writings

- W. Rose

I have taken over 2 years in waiting to write on this subject. This has been an extremely important subject to me and to many people that I know. The answer to this question has serious consequences to our christian walk. It is my prayer that in reading this article you will consider the words being written. Consider the fact that I am merely a man, and am prone to error. Consider that our FAITH is in Jesus Christ and NOT in men. I want to be clear to all who may read this article that I do NOT worship any other than the ONE TRUE GOD. Even the most Holy Angels refused worship from our brother John. Then too, I am convinced that our early brethren would be repulsed and righteously angered if they were to think that men would ever give them worship. May our Savior and friend, Jesus the Christ, receive any glory and honor that may ever come from this little article.

WOW, where do I begin? May the Lord guide me in presenting this to you. First, let me start by introducing you to the early church. When I refer to the early church, I am referring to those Christians from the time of the start of the Christian church until the time around the Council of Nicea. (ad315) This council was a major turning point in the history of the church, and it is very clear in reading the writings of those before and after, that there was a big change that took place during that time. There WERE good christian writers after this council, but for the sake of classifying the authentic early church, I will stop it at this time frame.

Whenever I quote from one of these writers I will be either quoting from the Ante-Nicene 10 volume set or from David Bercot's 'Dictionary Of Early Christian Beliefs'. Both of these resources are available from David Bercot at his web-site - www.ScrollPublishing.com

To begin, I want to give you a real life event that took place around 3 years ago. A brother and I were going to take a load of scrap metal over the mountain into Tennessee to the recycling center. Between us and the scrap yard you have to go over a mountain pass, which is very steep and curvy. As we went up over the top and started back down the Tennessee side, we hadn't gone 1/2 a mile when we came around this one bend, and WOAAAA, slam on the brakes!!! There was an auto accident right in the middle of the curve.

So we stopped rapidly, and quickly hopped out of the truck we were in. All we saw was this car all smashed up in the road and nothing else.  Well, there had to be another vehicle somewhere! Right about that time 2 men came scrambling up the side of the mountain, a little banged up, but o.k. The truck they were in, hit this car head on and swerved off the side of the mountain. Meanwhile, in the car there was a young lady and 2 children. The children were screaming and standing on the front seat, WITHOUT injury. The front of the car was totally crushed and the lady was pinned between the seat and the engine compartment. It was a terrible sight, especially for me, since I am kinda weak-kneed in those situations. Her leg was crushed wide open, I mean bones showing and all. Poor lady was just screaming and yelling and panicking. We were trying to keep her calm and let her know she'd be alright, just hang in there.

Well, at the top of this mountain there is no cellular service, so someone had to drive about 5 miles to get to the nearest phone. We stayed with her the whole time. It seemed like a long time before the rescue squad came. After the rescue squad came, the 'jaws of life' people came and started sawing the car in half to get her out. After a few minutes of ear shattering noises and alot of screaming on her part, they got her out and carried her off in an ambulance. Once the ambulance left and we told the authorities all we knew about the accident, we decided it was time for us to go. We couldn't go forward as the road was still blocked and by this time the recycle center had closed, so we turned around and headed for home.

Now all of this took probably 45-60 minutes, and the road had been blocked the whole time. So by now, there was a long line of cars stretching down the mountain for at least a mile or so. remember these are very curvy roads, and unless you were one of the first 2 or 3 cars, you had no idea what was happening around that curve there. As we drove slowly past all these stopped cars, we noticed people walking around talking to each other. Some stopped us and asked us what happened up there, others were telling the cars around them what they heard happened up there. I can only imagine some of the stories that went around as to what happened in that curve that day.

This is where I learned a big lesson in life - The farther we got away from the scene of the accident, the farther the stories were from the truth of what happened. The ones who were there on the spot had the most valuable testimony to the authorities, because they were first-hand witnesses to what transpired. The police didn't even bother walking around a few curves and asking anybody what happened, because they knew that they wouldn't really know first-hand. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this, can't you? I understood that day just how important the writings of the first ones on the scene were to us in order to really understand what happened and was taught in the church of Jesus Christ.

This is where the writings of the early church come into play. Apart from the writers of 'scripture' these are the earliest writings we have from Christians. Several of the earliest writers were even disciples of the some of the apostles. They were taught first hand by the apostles, and they in turn taught the next generation what they had been taught, and so on.... Unlike the car accident where truth is not so much an issue, rather stretching truth to make a better accident story, these early writers were committed to handing on the truth of the apostles as accurately and carefully as humanly possible. There were so many checks and balances in place to keep the truth pure. There wasn't just one or two people that had been taught the truth, but many. And these many all went in different directions and spread the teachings. Then you can go years later into these various locales, sometimes continents apart, and amazingly, you find a clear harmonious gospel and church teaching.

I know that many people, maybe you're one of them, imagine that immediately after the apostles died, the church just went into heresy overnight. After all Paul said that after he left, wolves would come in, not sparing the flock. So it must be true, right? Well, WRONG! Paul didn't lie, because wolves did come in not sparing the flock, but fortunately for the church's sake, Paul's warning didn't fall on deaf ears. The churches became jealous over the gospel of Christ and the teachings of the church. They guarded with utmost zeal the preserving of church tradition. When these wolves would come in, they found that, by and large, they were spotted and removed as a cancer is removed from the body. Remember that the apostles clearly taught on putting those out that would try to corrupt the teachings of the church, and did they ever!

One thing I noticed almost immediately after I started reading these writings, was the overwhelming zeal and love for the pure, unadulterated truth and teaching of the church. This was second to none in their eyes. We have thousands, if not millions of books about doctrine and stuff today, but I don't think any are as careful in preserving the present state of the church as they were in theirs. What else would you expect though? There were so many commands and teachings on the purity of the true teachings of the church. Paul said that NO other foundation could be laid, than that which was laid by Christ and the apostles. In Jude we're told to earnestly contend for the FAITH, that was ONCE FOR ALL delivered unto the saints. Paul warned that if ANY come preaching ANY other gospel than what was ALREADY preached, even if it was Paul himself or an ANGEL, let him be accursed.

Pretty strong words about the truth and the severity of adulterating it. Yes, these early writers knew full well that these warnings were not to be taken lightly. They gave their lives for the cause of the truth. In this next section, I will give just a few quotes from some of the early writers as to the preservation of the truth. I want you to be fully aware, before anything else, that these early writers were to be trusted. If you can't trust them, then who cares what they wrote, right? So this is very foundational to the whole issue.

IGNATIUS (taught by several apostles, writing @ad105) - Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles.

IRENAEUS (a disciple of Polycarp, who was taught by John, writing @180) - True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles and the ancient constitution of the church throughout all the world. It also consists in the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops. For by this they have handed down that church which exists in every place and which came down even unto us. She is guarded and preserved without any forging of scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine. She neither receives any addition to, nor does she allow any diminishing of, the truths which she believes. True knowledge also consists of reading the Word of God without falsification, but with a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures - both without danger and without blasphemy. Above all, it consists in the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts of God.

TERTULLIAN (member of church in Africa, writing about ad197) - At the beginning, I lay down the fact that there is one definite thing taught by Christ... You must 'seek' only until you have found; once you have 'found', you must believe. After that, you have nothing further to do but to keep what you have believed...For nothing else is to be believed, and so nothing else is to be sought.

AGAIN - TERTULLIAN - No other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation.

CYPRIAN (bishop in Carthage Africa, writing @258 ad) - We must not at all depart from the evangelical precepts. Disciples should observe and do the same things that the master both taught and did...So, then, neither the apostle himself nor an angel from heaven can preach or teach anything other than what Christ has once taught and that His apostles have announced. Therefore, I wonder very much where this practice has originated. For it is contrary to evangelical and apostolic discipline.

DISPUTATION OF ARCHELAUS AND MANES (Archelaus was a 3rd century bishop, Manes was a heretic, this was a debate @320ad) - Those who seek to setup any new dogma have the habit of very readily perverting into conformity with their own notions any proofs they care to take form the scriptures...The apostolic word marks out the case in these words 'If anyone preaches any other gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be accursed.' Consequently, in addition to what has been once committed to us by the apostles, a disciple of Christ should receive nothing new as doctrine.

Here, I have just given you a very, very brief synopsis of the view of the early writers. As you can see, form the beginning to @320, the same element was found in their writings. They were NOT to change the apostolic teaching one little bit. I really liked Tertullian's statement, that after you've found the truth, there is no longer need to seek it, just continue in it and preserve it.  WOW, can we say that today?

What I want to do now, is explain something very fundamental about the 'church' and its purpose. More often than not, when I teach this, people cry 'heretic!' as loud as they can, but be careful about doing that too quickly. I am trying to stretch our minds and try to show how we have had our understanding 'veiled' from the truth of the church.

Today, when we think of the church and its 'borders', we think of a body of believers in Jesus gathered together for the purpose of edification and perfecting till we come to the knowledge and stature of Christ (Eph. 4). This is true, so very much!!! Where I, and the early church might not agree with you is in this, that our faith is not based off of the 'bible'. All of our teaching and doctrine was never meant to be from the 'bible' alone. Please bear with me for a minute and listen honestly. There are 20,000 or more 'Christian' denominations out there today. EVERY ONE of them uses the bible as their proof that their doctrine is correct. How can this be? And if you listen to them, they can nearly always convince you from scripture, that they are right in their thinking. But we know that there are not 20,000 truths, but only ONE. So who has it?

This is the problem that is created when we stand on the 'bible only' position. It is very dangerous and has NO early church support. It just wasn't meant to be that shaky. The apostles didn't just sit down and write scripture all day. In fact, most of their time was out preaching the gospel from city to city. Just read the book of Acts and see. They would go around and establish churches in every city and stay for a while and then go somewhere else and do it again. Then they would come back, sometimes years later, and make sure things were still going good. These letters that we have from them, called 'epistles', are letters they wrote in response to either letters they received from the churches, or in response to something they heard was happening, or written to instruct others in the faith. When they wrote, they weren't doing so under the motive of putting together a collection of these and calling it The Bible. This just has no historical evidence or even biblical support.

I know what you're thinking, you think that I think that the 'bible' isn't inspired and it's not perfect. Wrong and right at the same time. I'll explain. Inspiration, like most see it, is this - The writers sat down at command from God and wrote what they heard a voice telling them, called verbal inspiration. I honestly don't think this is how the letters were written. The writers themselves never made this claim, and it is evident that most of the writers were not skilled at writing. You would think that if God verbally inspired and told them what to write, God would have had a better form of literary skill. These were obviously writings from imperfect men. Does this mean they are not inspired? NO!!!! They are inspired. You are probably thinking I'm wishy-washy now, huh? When I say they are inspired, I mean by that, that the writers were full of the Holy Spirit and they were taught by Christ personally. Therefore, the things they taught were from God, but from knowledge of God and remembering the teachings of Christ, not hearing a voice speak to them outloud. Now I know that the book of Revelation is different. This was verbally inspired by a messenger to John. Do you see the difference? Let me put it this way -

Remember back to the accident story. I personally saw what happened. When I drove down the road, would I need to have a voice tell me what to tell the people that happened? Of course not. I was there. I saw it. I can accurately relay to them the truth of the accident, because it was fresh on my mind and I personally witnessed it. The writers of the bible were no different. Christ taught them the truth, so they were commanded to go and teach this truth. And that's what they did. When they wrote, they wrote from memory.

This is even made more evident in reading their very own writings. Paul, in 1 Cor 7:12 -'But to the rest, I say, not the Lord, If any...' Then again in verse 25 - 'Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, but give my opinion as one who has been shown mercy by the Lord to be faithful...'. Do you see my point here? Can we say that these verses were given by verbal inspiration from God? Of course not, that would be making a joke out of what he said. These verses clearly show that what Paul wrote was what he had been taught by Christ at some time or another. But sometimes he ran across issues he hadn't received any teaching in, so he gave his spiritual opinion, and I'm sure it can be trusted. I hope you see that I am not trying to tear the bible down, but just help us to understand the nature of it better, so we'll see the necessity of the church as well as the necessity of the written word.

But what about the churches, how did they view the 'bible'? Actually, many, if not most, of the earliest churches didn't have the scriptures. They would share leaves from copies with other churches, and they would pass them around. I'm talking OLD Testament scripture here. Then when it came to the letters of the apostles, they would make copies, but sometimes it would be years and years before some churches got them. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he didn't make a photocopy and send it to Smyrna at the same time. He would travel, as did the other apostles, and teach the churches personally. The letters were written primarily because he was not there at the time. How many times did Paul say 'I have more to tell you, but I'll wait till I come in person'? Well, what did he tell them? Did he forget to write that down? No, he never purposed to, he taught it to them in person. Then they were to teach it to their children and the rest and they would teach it to the next and so on.

This is where I bring my subject into focus. When we get a clear understanding of how truth was taught in the first churches, then we'll see the necessity of the early writings. if you think the bible is all that's needed to know 100% everything taught to the church, then you don't need the early church. You already have the truth completely revealed to you. BUT, If you understand that not everything was put in writing, then all of the sudden the early writings become very useful to you. Why? Because where the 'bible' may be unclear or vague, the early writers spent a lot of time covering those bases, because NOW their purpose WAS to put in written form the teachings of the church. Their writings were more categorical and complete, while the apostles letters were more brief and narrowed in scope. NOT ALWAYS, but usually.

Do this, take your bible and look at it sideways - you know, at the thickness of the pages. Now separate the old from the new. Not much in the new is there? Although it's 27 'books', some are only a few verses long, and many are just a few chapters. The new testament is not an exhaustive look into church doctrine by any means. Now Hebrews and Romans are very doctrinal. The most, actually. Apart from those though, there is not a lot of depth into doctrine in the new testament. This is why those churches who use the 'bible only' fall into so many and various sects, because the bible alone can be interpreted honestly a lot of ways on some doctrines. BUT, when you look at scripture through the understanding of the earliest hearers of those words, then you can fit the pieces together and it makes complete sense. There are no more problem verses that have to be avoided or twisted. The bible is accurate and truth can be found in it, but it was never meant to be the only source of truth for the church.

In this next section, I'm going to give you a few quotes from the early church explaining this, so you can see that this is not just my opinion, but the very same thing that they taught. Then we'll look at what they wrote and examine it more closely.

IRENAEUS (@180) - When, however, they (the gnostics) are confuted from the scriptures, they turn around and accuse the same scriptures as if they were not correct... But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, which is preserved by means of the successions of prebyters in the churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely then the presbyters, but even then the apostles.

Again Irenaeus - In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles and the preaching of the truth have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same life-giving faith, which has been preserved in the church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

TERTULLIAN (@197) - Wherever it will be evident that the true Christian faith and rule exist, there will also be the true scriptures and explanations thereof, and all the christian traditions.

PAPIAS (quoted by Eusebius @120ad) - If, then, anyone who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings. I asked what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples - things which Aristion and presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. I concluded that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.

TERTULLIAN (@210) - If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them. Custom is their strengthener, and faith is their observer...These instances, therefore, will make it sufficiently plain that you can vindicate the keeping of even unwritten tradition established by custom. The proper witness for tradition is its demonstration by long-continued observance.

HIPPOLYTUS (@205) - Dear brethren, let us believe according to the tradition of the apostles.

CYPRIAN (@250) - Know that we do not depart from the traditions of the Gospel and of the apostles. Rather, with constancy and firmness we maintain the discipline of the church.

Again Cyprian - You must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us throughout almost all the provinces.

IRENAEUS (@180) - Every word will also seem consistent to him if he diligently reads the scriptures in company with those who are presbyters in the church, among whom is the apostolic doctrine.

THEOPHILUS - (@180) - The world is driven and tempest tossed by sins. Therefore, God has given to it assemblies - we mean holy churches - in which survive the doctrines of the truth.

Lastly - TERTULLIAN (@197) - It is not believable to say that the apostles were either ignorant of the whole scope of the message which they had to declare, or that they failed to make known to all men the entire rule of faith. Let us see, then, whether - even though the apostles proclaimed it simply and fully - the churches, through their own fault, proclaimed it differently than had the apostles. you will find that the heretics put forward all these suggestions of distrust.... Suppose, then, that all churches have erred. Suppose that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony. Suppose that the Holy Spirit had insufficient concern for any one church as to lead it into truth - although He was sent forth for this reason by Christ.... Suppose also, that He, the steward of God, the Vicar of Christ, neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently- than what He Himself was preaching through the apostles. If so, is it likely that so many churches, and they are so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith? No accident distributed among many men leads to one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various results. However, when that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same - it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can anyone, then, be reckless enough to say that the ones who handed on the tradition were in error?

Suffice it for now to give those quotes. Did you notice another common element in these quotes? It was that the doctrines of Christ and the teachings of the apostles were not kept preserved through scripture alone, but by the handing down from church to church. Church teaching and tradition was to be found, not in scripture, but in the teaching of the apostolic churches. This way there couldn't be any confusion over scripture. The churches taught what the truth was. If you didn't understand a passage of scripture, what did you do? Come up with your own idea of what it means? NO, you asked the church and they would teach you what the apostles taught that it means. This was how the church was preserved for several hundred years. And because of this, the churches remained unified in doctrine, as we can clearly see from the quotes, and free from error.

You may ask then, well what did they think of the scripture? This is a good question and needs to be addressed. Actually, after reading these last quotes you'll be surprised at how they viewed scripture. Here are just a couple to give you an idea...

CLEMENT OF ROME (@96) - Take up the letter of the blessed apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the gospel first began to be preached? Truly, he wrote to you under the inspiration of the Spirit.

ORIGEN (@248) - The object of christianity is that we should become wise. This can be proved - not only from the ancient Jewish writings, which we also use - but particularly from those writings that were composed after the time of Jesus. The churches believe these writings to be divine.

TERTULLIAN (@212) - It will be your duty, however, to present your proofs out of the scriptures, as plainly as we do.

As you can see form this small sample, that even though they held to the teachings of the church, they also gave equal weight to what was taught in scripture. In their mind, the two would not contradict each other. We, today, say I'll see if the church is teaching truth by if it lines up with scripture. They would say back then, that they would see if the scriptures were accurate, by looking at the teachings of the apostolic churches. They'd be considered heretics today, wouldn't they? Yet, this is the church that Jesus Himself built, and the apostles continued. Like Tertullian asks, did all the churches go into one and the same error? Impossible, isn't it? The reason why, again, is because they had more than the bible, they had the traditions and teachings of the apostles handed down in word and letter.

From all of this you may ask, 'Do you mean that the early church teaches doctrine not in scripture?'. The answer is NO. ALL early church doctrine can be found in the pages of the bible. Remember, they didn't add to or take away anything. The difference is in the proper explanation of the scriptures. Earlier I gave a quote from Tertullian about the 3 fold test of truth...

The 3 tests are these
1. Is it in the scripture?
2. Is it the proper explanation of this scripture?
3. Does it line up with apostolic tradition?

If a doctrine could not pass those 3 tests, it was to be rejected. Today, it only has to pass the first one. This is very dangerous and all one has to do is look around and see the results of that. The 3 fold test was put there to protect the truth from error. This is why the church could live in a day without technology - like we have today - be separated by thousands of miles, and hundreds of years later, still teach one and the same faith. We can't say that for 2 churches within blocks of each other nowadays.

SO, if the church was not supposed to be kept alive by the scripture alone, but by the teachings and traditions of the apostles and the church, then what are we to do today, because the churches are so messed up and no one believes this way? Good question, let me answer.... this is where the early writings come into play. These early Christians foresaw these things taking place. After all, heretics were trying to come in constantly. They wrote entire works refuting heretics and their beliefs. They also were very careful to write on paper (ancient paper, that is) the traditions and teachings of the church. They did this so churches down the road would always have a reminder of the faith that was once for all delivered. They did this to stop any heresies from coming in. They did this, possibly knowing that in the future, like now, the church would be a shambles and we would need a way to know how to get back to the original.

This was supposed to be a brief look into the importance of the early church, but I just didn't want to be overly brief so as to leave one confused. I hope I have at least clearly expressed my understanding on this subject, and if you're confused, it's not because I didn't explain myself, but because maybe you disagree or are in shock right now. I hope you have received this article in the spirit in which it was written. One of love and excitement for the Church of Jesus Christ. I also want you to know, that this in NO way makes me look at the bible as second rate or less important. ON THE CONTRARY, I love it even more. You see, I don't have to hide or twist anything in there to support my doctrine. The bible teaches truth and it is perfect in its content. The problems lie with us mortals trying to always comprehend these things, through the pages alone. This was not the intention, the pages were a secondary resource. The words of the apostles were just as inspired as the writings. So the church held to both equally.

I will try to sum up this article and leave you with a few challenges...

I have attempted to show you that the writings of the early church are important to our walk with Christ. This is because the bible was never meant to be the only source of our teaching. Christ established the church, and built it using his apostles. Those apostles went forth and proclaimed the teachings to the churches by mouth and every once in a while, by letter. These were considered equally important, because they were both teachings for the church. Whereas the apostles would speak for hours, sometimes till late into the night, the letters were short and very pointed in their content, often addressing specific issues in a quick way. So in order for us to fully understand a lot of those 'unclear' passages, we need to go no further than the teachings of the church to see what exactly the apostles meant.

I have tried to show that using the 'bible alone' is dangerous and not God ordained. There is no scripture or early church writings to justify this carelessness with the church. In doing so, we have completely abandoned the pattern that was left for us by the apostles and the church. This cannot be denied. You may not agree that it should be that way today, but there is no denying that the church was different back then than it is now. So we either restore the church to what it was, or continue in our modern day, lukewarm, watered-down version of what was once a worldwide church that taught one and the same doctrine. Can we say that today? I have also tried to show you the zeal and fervor these early writers had for truth. Their uncompromising love for truth and the church. Many thousands of the early church were martyred for their faith. Many never even read a bible. They were taught the apostle's doctrine by the church. There was true discipleship in that church. There was none of this 'now you're saved, now go and read the bible and believe it and obey it'. There was no room for that. That was too dangerous to the existence of the church. People are always going to come up with various interpretations of the scripture, that is why there was a 3 fold test. This kept the church free from this independent theology making and kept the teaching of all the churches one and the same for hundreds of years.

Does hearing this scare you? Does it deflate your view of the bible? Does it unsettle your faith? It shouldn't do any of those. Actually, when I started discovering these truths, I was so amazed and excited. It was like a blurry photo was now coming into focus. Things that I had had questions on for years were now clear to me. It was liberating and satisfying!! I hope it does the same for you. It only will though, if you really love the truth and are willing to pay a price for walking in it. You must be willing to forsake all that you have, in order to be His disciple.

Well brother, sister, do you still love me? I hope and pray so. I pray you can see my love for Christ's church and that I am willing to be made a fool for His sake. I hope you can see that I haven't invented anything here, but I am just handing on to you now, what Paul and John handed on to Polycarp and Ignatius. This my brothers, is the apostolic faith that was once for all delivered, whether by word, or by letter. This is the reason for at least considering looking into the pages of our first brethren's writings and peeking into the workings of the very first churches. Does it excite you to know that you can discover what the first churches were like? Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone of modern complacent Christianity and discover the zeal and fire that spurred the church on for hundreds of years, through tortures and martyrdom, through famines and diseases, through wolves from within and without....

Come with me, and discover the church that Christ laid the foundation for and the holy apostles built upon... WILL YOU?

ADDENDUM- I felt like I needed to stress a point here. I want to try to avoid any misunderstanding of my position on scripture. Please understand that I DO NOT think of the writings of the early church as inspired and the bible not. The writings of the early church were NOT APOSTOLIC, therefore not to be held at the same caliber as the scriptures. I DO believe we can trust the early writings though. Especially the earliest ones, and when there is a clear, harmonious teaching on any given subject. I don't think that their teaching in any way contradict scripture and, in fact, they uphold it and make it clearer. I believe that the bible is just one way that God established to teach His children truth. I also believe that He established the church to do this very same thing also. I feel that we should obey the teaching of the church, so long as their teaching is apostolic and can be traced back to the fountain of truth, Jesus Christ and His apostles.

I AM very concerned that the church today has a man-made tradition in the 'bible only' doctrine. I think the early church was very clear in pointing this out as dangerous and to be rejected. This in NO way takes away from the importance of scripture. I hold to it as strongly as you do, if not more. I am merely referring to the proper interpretation of scripture and the practical application of it in our lives. I feel that in order for the church to get back to the pattern left us by the apostles, we must repent of this independent 'spirit' and set our hearts upon returning to the apostle's doctrines and teachings. I know a lot of people don't like to hear about doctrine, and they think people who discuss doctrinal issues have too much free time, but I believe that scripture and early writings both show that doctrine DOES matter. God never meant for His church to be ignorant concerning the truth. He established the church on very solid ground and put a very wise plan in place to keep it pure. It was men who thought they knew better and started changing things. Hasn't it always been that way?

If you have any questions or concerns about this article, please email me and we can discuss it in a brotherly way. I want to be very careful here, so that I do not 'scare away' real truthseekers. BUT I have to be honest. I am obligated to Christ to tell the truth. However, If I am wrong, I do want to know. May the Lord Bless you....

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